New York City in post-storm darkness: photos by Randy Scott Slavin

NYC UNPLUGGED, a series by photographer Randy Scott Slavin documenting the darkness in New York City after Hurricane Sandy caused widespread power outages:

New York City is always bright. Street lights, business marquees, light from apartments and car headlights merge to light every corner of the city streets, even on the darkest nights. It is the night after NYC was decimated by Hurricane Sandy, downtown NYC is in the midst of a power outage that has plunged it into complete darkness. I felt the call to hit the eerily dark streets and show New York as it is rarely seen. Trekking around with my tripod I was able to get the long exposures necessary to see in the dark.

What Nate Silver is actually telling you about the election

The election is next week. And, with that in mind, Salon's Paul Campos has posted a helpful reminder explaining what the statistics at the fivethirtyeight blog actually mean (and what they don't).

In particular, you have to remember that, while Nate Silver gives President Obama a 77.4 percent chance of winning the presidential election, that's not the same thing as saying that Obama is going to win.

Suppose a weather forecasting model predicts that the chance of rain in Chicago tomorrow is 75 percent. How do we determine if the model produces accurate assessments of probabilities? After all, the weather in Chicago tomorrow, just like next week’s presidential election, is a “one-off event,” and after the event the probability that it rained will be either 100 percent or 0 percent. (Indeed, all events that feature any degree of uncertainty are one-off events – or to put it another way, if an event has no unique characteristics it also features no uncertainties).

The answer is, the model’s accuracy can be assessed retrospectively over a statistically significant range of cases, by noting how accurate its probabilistic estimates are. If, for example, this particular weather forecasting model predicted a 75 percent chance of rain on 100 separate days over the previous decade, and it rained on 75 of those days, then we can estimate the model’s accuracy in this regard as 100 percent. This does not mean the model was “wrong” on those days when it didn’t rain, any more than it will mean Silver’s model is “wrong” if Romney were to win next week.

BB Readers' DIY Costumes: 9 month old baby as a mermaid

In our Epic Halloween DIY Costume thread, Boing Boing reader Jean Dunk shares this wonderful photo and says, "Here is my 9 month old as a mermaid." Here's a larger size.

Meet the National Unwatering Swat Team

As I post this, the National Unwatering Swat Team should be reaching New York City, where it will do what the National Unwatering Swat Team does best — remove water from places it shouldn't ever be. This is a different mandate than dewatering, in which water is removed from places where it's sometimes okay to have water. (Via Philip Bump) Read the rest

Star Wars montage tights

Australian geeky women's clothing maker Black Milk (previously featured many times on Boing Boing) has rolled out a new line of Star Wars clothes, including a lovely pair of Star Wars Montage leggings.

What makes wind?

It can be a nice breeze, or a destructive storm, but either way wind is just moving air. And moving air is just moving molecules.

In an explainer for kids that's actually pretty helpful for grown-ups, too, Matt Shipman reminds us that the air around us isn't totally weightless. It weighs something, because molecules all weigh something:

They don't weigh very much (you couldn't put one on your bathroom scale), but their weight adds up, because there are a LOT of molecules in the air that makes up our atmosphere. All of that air is actually pretty heavy, so the air at the bottom of the atmosphere (like the air just above the ground) is getting pressed on by all of the air above it. That pressure pushes the air molecules at the bottom of the atmosphere a lot closer together than the air molecules at the top of the atmosphere.

And, because the air at the top of the atmosphere is pushing down on the air at the bottom of the atmosphere, the air molecules at the bottom REALLY want to spread out. So if there is an area where the air molecules are under high pressure (with a lot of weight pushing down), the air will spread out into areas that are under lower pressure (with less weight pushing down).

Read the full story at Carolina Parent

Image: wind, katarinahissen, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from mararie's photostream

Prince Ea: "For: Obama, From: The People"

"Today I released a highly political video directed towards President Obama, from the standpoint of the American people." - Prince Ea

A case report on lycanthropy

Just in time for Halloween, Sci Curious blogs about a case report, published in a peer-reviewed research journal, covering the strange story of a patient with lycanthropy — which is, to say, a bad case of werewolfitis. Lycanthropy as a Culture-Bound Syndrome: A Case Report and Review of the Literature was published in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice. And it was published this year.

Yes, in 2012. That's because the technical, medical definition of lycanthropy had nothing to do with physically transforming into a creature of the night. It's a mental thing, where patients believe they have transformed into some kind of animal, even though they are still demonstrably human. According to Sci Curious, the animals involved in lycanthropy include everything from the obvious (wolf) to the unintentionally hilarious (bee, gerbil).

In their survey of the literature, the authors of this study found many more incidences of people who believed they had been transformed into animals, and which resolved after psychiatric treatment. But what interested the authors of this study were WHAT people generally believed they had turned into. While some people believed they had been turned into gerbils or cows, a surprising number believed they had been turned into wolves, and, as with the case with this woman, snakes.

The authors believe that this is because of what different cultures associate with...evil. Many of the people with lycanthropy believed firmly that the devil had done this to them, and of course the devil would turn them into a beast that is usually considered EVIL.

BB Readers' DIY Costumes: Fish-Man from Ugly Americans

In our Epic Halloween DIY Costume thread, Boing Boing reader Sarah Pérez shares these images and says,

This year I have become Fish-Man! The idea was inspired by the fish-man character, Toby, in the show Ugly Americans. I think the idea of a fish wearing pants is pretty hilarious, and luckily the costume turned out to be as funny as I hoped it would. I've already worn it out on the bus and train home from work and it made quite a few smiles all around :)

The head is chicken wire, screen door mesh, paper mache, foam and fabric. I also had to special order some very large pants which I velcroed to the fish head. Oh, and the eyes light up too-- they're those battery-operated closet push-lights ;)

I'll be walking in the 16th Annual Halloween on Halsted Parade this Wednesday in Chicago at 7pm CST. Hope to see you Chicago readers there-- Happy Halloween!

Her video of fish-man in action below. Read the rest

Won't somebody think of the rats?

I'm sure you've all been very concerned, worrying about the impact Hurricane Sandy had on New York City's rat population. The good news: Rats can swim and, while many rats likely died during the storm, there are probably still plenty of them alive. The really interesting news: Nobody actually knows how many rats live in New York City. There could be as many as 32 million. Read the rest

Companion Cube ice-trays

Wow 'em at your next Portal-themed cocktail party with ThinkGeek's Companion Cube ice-cube molds, at \$12.99 per.

Illiterate kids given sealed boxes with tablets figure out how to use, master, and hack them

Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child presentation at the MIT Tech Review EmTech conference recounted an inspiring experiment in which illiterate Ethiopian village-kids were given solar-charging laptops in sealed boxes, and quickly taught themselves how to operate, then master, then hack, these devices, acquiring basic literacy and technological literacy at the same time.

MIT Technology Review's David Talbot reports in a piece reprinted on Mashable.com:

The experiment is being done in two isolated rural villages with about 20 first-grade-aged children each, about 50 miles from Addis Ababa. One village is called Wonchi, on the rim of a volcanic crater at 11,000 feet; the other is called Wolonchete, in the Rift Valley. Children there had never previously seen printed materials, road signs, or even packaging that had words on them, Negroponte said.

Earlier this year, OLPC workers dropped off closed boxes containing the tablets, taped shut, with no instruction. “I thought the kids would play with the boxes. Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, found the on-off switch … powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village, and within five months, they had hacked Android,” Negroponte said. “Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera, and they figured out the camera, and had hacked Android.”

Elaborating later on Negroponte’s hacking comment, Ed McNierney, OLPC’s chief technology officer, said that the kids had gotten around OLPC’s effort to freeze desktop settings.

Vintage Tomorrows -- What Can Playing With the Past Teach Us About the Future?

This book walks through the Steampunk movement and what their alternative history says about our own world and its technological future.

4 year old is tired of hearing about Bronco Bama, Mitt Rominey, and the elections

"This is my four year old daughter, Abigael, after hearing one too many mentions of the election."

Bauhaus: "Bela Lugosi's Dead" live, 1982

Bauhaus perform "Bela Lugosi's Dead" in 1982 at London's Old Vic Theatre.

Mysterious docs retrieved from meth lab show inner workings of "Dark Money"

A strange story from Frontline and ProPublica: "Found in a meth house in Colorado, they were somewhat of a mystery, holding files on 23 conservative candidates in state races in Montana. They were filled with candidate surveys and mailers that said they were paid for by campaigns, and fliers and bank records from outside spending groups. One folder was labeled “Montana \$ Bomb.” The documents pointed to one outside group pulling the candidates’ strings: a social welfare nonprofit called Western Tradition Partnership, or WTP." You'll want to watch the related Frontline documentary. Read the rest

BB Readers' DIY Costumes: Multicultural/Birthday/Gay Mummy

In our Epic Halloween DIY Costume thread, Boing Boing reader Christopher Ing says, "Went as a multicultural mummy (a.k.a. the birthday mummy)." Read the rest